We'll continue our tour around the Rangers' infield with second base, where there certainly is not any kind of position battle or uncertainty.
Today's position: Second base
Ian Kinsler has emerged as one of the top all-around players in the game. At the plate, Kinsler has shown plenty of versatility. In his career, Kinsler has 95 or more at-bats at every spot in the lineup but cleanup, where's he's actually never batted. By far, his highest total is in the leadoff spot, where he was in 2011. Kinsler hit .257 and much was made of how the batting average was low by his standards. But he did so much more as a leadoff hitter. He had a .848 OPS, third-most among AL leadoff hitters and his .356 on-base percentage is fourth. Considering the average, that's saying something. Kinsler's 84 walks were tops among leadoff hitters by a huge margin (Austin Jackson was second with 55).
But as the OPS shows, Kinsler has power. His 32 home runs were tops among any AL leadoff hitter. When Kinsler stepped to the plate, the game could be 1-0 in a heartbeat. That concerned every playoff opponent that faced Texas in 2011 (and Kinsler led off Game 4 in Tampa Bay with a homer, if you'll remember, the day the Rangers clinched in Adrian Beltre's three-homer game).
Once Kinsler gets on the bases, he makes things happen. Gary Pettis, who times the pitcher's move to home plate and helps the players on running the bases, said that Kinsler was the best on the team at quickly adjusting to what the pitcher was doing. Pettis could tell Kinsler a time or a tendency and Kinsler would immediately process it and make it work for him.
He stole 30 bases and did it despite an ankle that didn't feel 100 percent. Kinsler said this offseason that he had a PRP procedure to help relieve some of the pain on his ankle, which hadn't felt right since he rolled it in spring training in 2010. Now he feels 100 percent, which should make him even more effective.
As for his play in the field, Kinsler has become one of the most reliable second baseman in the big leagues. In his first three seasons in the league, Kinsler had 53 errors (an average of 17.6 per season). But in his last three years, he has 29 (an average of 9.6). He had 11 errors last year in 144 starts in the field, the most starts of his career. But errors, of course, aren't the only fielding indicator. Kinsler had the second-most DRS (defensive runs saved) of any second baseman in the AL at 16 (Ben Zobrist had 17).
There was talk among fans that Kinsler's best spot in the order might be third or sixth. But I disagree. His versatility makes him dangerous in the top spot. Could he drive in more runs later in the order? Maybe. But he creates so many opportunities for others by getting on base and then getting himself into scoring position with big bats coming up behind him.
Kinsler, BTW, was ranked No. 15 overall by ESPN.com's Eric Karabell. That's the highest ranking for any Rangers player heading into the 2012 fantasy season. It's because of Kinsler's production and the fact that he does it at second base, a position that isn't deep in the fantasy world.
This should be a fun year for Kinsler. He's completely healthy, coming off a season where he played in 155 games, and was solid in the playoffs.